It was as if I was back in the days when sci-fi creature features like “Mothra,” “Earth vs. the Flying Saucers” and “The Attack of the 50-Foot Woman” filled theaters.
And now ... “Invasion of the Giant Eggplant,” also known as “It Came from Treva’s Garden.”
It all started innocently, as these things do, on an average weekday. Moose Manor was preparing a nutritious lunch for The Hub when the phone rang.
“Deb,” Treva said. “Do you-all eat eggplant?”
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I often get calls from my gardening friend this time of year, looking to bestow some of her vegetable bounty. If the average backyard gardener has a green thumb, Treva and her husband, Bill, must be dyed completely green. Tomatoes, zucchini, squash – it all pours out of their garden. I’m glad to receive it, because I can barely coax a few cherry tomatoes from my shady yard.
The phone calls follow a similar script: “Bill and I have eaten (fill in vegetable here) every way I know how to make it, and I’ve just got to get it out of the house. Will you take some?”
This time, it was an overload of eggplant.
Eggplant Parmesan? Did that, she said. Stuffed? Yep. She came up with a baked eggplant-crouton-and-cheese thing, “with way too much cheese, but I don’t care, it was good.” “How about ratatouille?” I asked.
“Oh! Haven’t done that,” she shouted. “That’s one more. But won’t you take these?”
I hesitated. I had recently made ratatouille, which is my favorite eggplant dish. It uses so many summer vegetables – tomatoes, peppers, onions, zucchini and eggplant – in a fragrant, herby stew. Hub and I like ratatouille a lot, but not again so soon.
I could figure out another eggplant-based meal. She probably only had a few of them, anyway.
“I’ll take a couple, I guess,” I said. “And, you know, if you have too much to use, you can just throw it out.”
From the reaction, you would have thought I’d asked Treva to pitch E.T. in the compost heap. “I can’t do that!”
Silly me, I had forgotten the sacred code of the midsummer backyard gardener. No matter if zucchini is piled up in your kitchen like firewood, if tomatoes are making your counters look like a crime scene, if you have enough melons to start a bowling alley – Thou Shalt Not Throw It Away.
This impulse goes way back. Maybe it’s one of those primal survival urges, that you need 20 pounds of okra because there might not be any more, ever.
When I was a kid, most families on my road had backyard gardens, and most grew the same things. However, when I’d head up the street to play with a friend, my mother would grab a bag, stuff it with whatever was covering the kitchen counters, dinette table and the top of the washer, and order me to take it. I’d drag the bag along, and get to the friend’s house to see her kitchen full of the same things. The recipients offered weak thank-yous and under-breath muttering.
“I’ll send Bill with three,” Treva said.
He arrived holding a bag with both arms.
Good gosh, the things were huge. I think my first car was smaller, and certainly less shiny. The skin had the glossy patina of a well-waxed Mercedes. Do Treva and Bill buff their vegetables with a shammy?
Then, time to deal with the creatures.
I toasted slices of baguette and layered them in a baking dish with sauteed onions, olive oil, basil, oregano and seared eggplant slices, along with chopped cherry tomatoes and garlic, covered the pan with foil and baked it. I topped it at the end with nutritional yeast, which, thanks to the dairy-allergic Hub, passes for cheese in our house.
One eggplant had stuffed the dish to capacity.
We ate on it for two days.
The second eggplant was sent outside to the Weber. Slices filled the grill, barely leaving room for chicken and a couple of ears of corn.
Two days later, one eggplant remained, its gleaming skin reflecting the refrigerator light like the hull of an alien craft.
The Hub and I peered in. Quietly, so as not to startle it, I said, “What should I do with it? Or are you done with eggplant for now?”
“I think I’m done,” he said.
“Should I ... throw it away?” I said.
“I think that’s what we have to do.”
So the end of this flick featured an easy defeat of the invader, via a drop into the garbage can.
Even though I didn’t grow it, I do feel a little guilty.
But I shouldn’t worry. Like the Martians, the eggplant will probably be back ... I hope.